Monday, March 13, 2017

Failure to Rest

Since I decided to go ahead and run the 50k race sick with lungs half functioning and some sort of infection brewing in my ears, I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to recover. A real goal I wrote for last week was to Get Better. 
  • Go to church but do not shake hands, do not sing, have your son serve you bread during communion and mostly try not to let on you are sick. 
  • Finally admit to yourself you really are sick. You came to this realization during the 31 miles you covered on Saturday but by Monday you just want to quit life. 
  • Confess to your mom you are sick and that you ran sick and that no, you never do listen. Assure her she does not need to come down and stay with the boys because there are still pizza rolls in the freezer.
  • Listen to your nieces’ piano lessons and decide they sound good enough this week. You mostly want to take a nap while they work out tricky rhythms laced with quarter notes, half notes and quarter rests. 
  • Go to the chiropractor on Wednesday and tell him you are dumb. He says he’s impressed with your determination and while you listen and appreciate his encouragement, you still mostly think you are dumb.
  • Spend a lot of time in bed and in pajamas. Wonder when the best time is to wash the pajamas because you do not want to be without them. 
  • Decide that this is the week you’ll finally start Gilmore Girls. 
  • Notice that The Great British Baking Show is also on Netflix and while Lorelei is always going to be a mess, pastries and sponges are the real deal. This becomes a nightly favorite for you and the boys because there is competition. 
  • Text your sister regularly with your death prognosis. She says to chill out and rest because you ran 31 miles sick and these things take time. 
  • Continue to text your sister regularly with your death prognosis. 
  • Text your friends and tell them that while you’ve been resting you also painted Luke’s room. Have them point out your failure to rest. 
  • Lose your patience with the boys. 
  • Buy them pizza and then force them to watch another new to you show- Fixer Upper. You’re watching a lot of tv- the most you’ve watched in a long, long time.
  • Discover that skipping through commercials and being able to go from one episode to the next immediately is how everything should be watched.
  • Fall asleep immediately when Supercross starts. This makes the third week in a row that you’ve missed it. 
  • Have some tiny meltdowns all week long. 
  • Lose your sense of humor. 
  • Eat weird things because your taste buds and sense of normal eating are all messed up. 
  • Drink tea. 
  • Despise tea because tea is not coffee.
  • Have your friends worry about you and implore you to go to the doctor. 
  • Have your sister tell you- Go to the doctor already! 
  • Wonder if you should shower before you go and is it acceptable for an adult to go to the doctor in pajamas. 
  • Go to the doctor.
  • Tell her you ran a 50k sick. 
  • Get diagnosed with bronchitis.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Winter Psycho Wyco

Two days before the winter Psycho Wyco 50k, I thought I was dying. I stayed in bed most of the day with aches and a cough and other miseries. I had gone from tired but still healthy on Tuesday to sore and chilled on Wednesday to all out dying on Thursday. My friends know that I invest myself fully in whatever I do and a cold is no exception. 

I contemplated what was in store for in two days- three trips around a trail near Kansas City with over 3,000 feet elevation gain. I knew this trail from last summer as I chose to celebrate my birthday by doing two loops on it in near 100 degree heat. I finished that race stinky from sweat, dripping from all the ice I tucked in all over my body and spent the trip back to Iowa dry-heaving from a bit of heat exhaustion. If those aren't reasons to come back, I don't know what is.

I chose this race as part of my training for my upcoming 50 mile race at McNaughton as a supported long run. A supported run means you have volunteers wearing flannel shirts and fake beards cheering you on. A supported run mean there is more to eat than your humble fig newtons and pretzels. There are quesadillas and broth and potatoes and Coke and pumpkin chip cookies. Some have made posters that make you smile and someone else has decided to wear Viking horns and beat on a drum at the top of a long climb although I suppose these things could happen during an unsupported run. I'll keep you posted. 

you have no idea, sign
The morning of the race, I rolled out of bed and bleakly looked at myself in the mirror. The temporary surge of wellness felt the day before had waned away and I found myself with a good size cough and that whole watery eye, runny nose bit. The hotel coffee was not the best part of waking up but to be honest, nothing was going to be that morning. Dressed in clothes appropriate for low 40 degree temps, I made my way to the start area. I found Susanne, Justin and Shannon and we all exchanged well wishes for the day. 

guy in back didn't want to smile so we kicked him out of our group
I knew I was in for a day of work when by a mile in I was far back in the pack and I didn’t care. I stopped at the first aid station only a few miles in and asked for broth- they would have it for me when I came back around. I tried to talk started coughing; every breath went down with jagged edges. I was sick and now had to finish this somehow without completely destroying myself.

The reasons one chooses to keep going despite being miserable are interesting. For one, I had nothing but time provided I start my last loop by the sixth hour. I called Bill at the beginning of my second loop to get encouragement and some help with pacing math. He assured me I had the endurance to do this race and that as long as I kept moving, I would be fine. Today was testing my mental stores. I chose to run when I could and walk all the rest. Anybody who could, passed me on the second loop. Secondly, this course has many areas that mimic the McNaughton race and to have to go over those again and again was good training. Thirdly, I couldn’t get this day back. I could have stopped at two loops and no one would have faulted me but I knew I wouldn’t get another shot at having this kind of support and time during this training block. I also felt like I was finally getting a real glimpse of what kind of work and suffering I will be getting myself into in a month or so. 

The winter course is similar to but not the same as the summer course. The winter course goes from the backside of the dam up the dam hill and continues up the dam road whereas the summer course goes across the dam bridge only, i.e. not as much dam. There are plenty of loose rocks and technical areas but much of it is runnable trail. Not easy and you must pay attention but still quite a nice. I found many sections of the bridle trail to be tough on the ankles because of the hoof prints left and then hardened into the trail. Days after the race was done, my lower legs were still sore. 

dam hill, in case you don't know what one looks like 
homophone with bridal
Friends cheered me on via text and I took the time to read them all even though I usually don't. I opened myself up to the entire experience and everything I was feeling. Amazed that I wasn't quitting. Quiet because I couldn't do anything more. Tired because I haven't figure out how to run with my eyes closed yet. Humbled because it would be this plus two more loops for 50 miles. Sad because I missed my boys. Encouraged because my friends and family believe in me. I may not have been sprite and cheery but I would not complain. Twice, spectators yelled from the roadside "Go get it!" and "Good job, young lady!" and who am I to correct them? 
totally works
My stubbornness prevailed and I started the third loop but it wasn’t without another call to Bill and another round of tears, which lead to a disaster of a runny nose. I learned fairly early on in the race that I could not wipe my nose on my sleeves every 5 minutes and my fingers were frozen so I was in no mood to manipulate tissues. Thus, I learned the art of snot rockets. Listen, in this training cycle I have had at least one thing in each long run bring me to a new, humbling low. Some of my friends (who are now in the best friends club) have been witness to these and others have heard my confessions. I have never been able to execute a successful snot rocket and all my previous attempts have left me almost wrenching at the grossness. I was so proud of myself and my new skill I considered titling this post "The Race I Perfected the Snot Rocket".

did you expect a picture of my snot rocket?
I wish I could have exchanged banter with the volunteers. They go out of their way to help everyone and bring smiles and positive energy to us. But since talking was a no go for the race, I just moved through every aid station and kept going. At the end of the loop are three hills or climbs. If you don’t know about them when you start, you will know about them by the end. At first I dreaded these hills. The whole section is a bunch of work. Both the ascents and descents are technical. Momentum is your friend on the way up and awareness is key on the way down. After the first loop, I adjusted my outlook when I got to them because the finish line was literally just around the corner. I finished the last loop and the last of the climbs and crossed the finish line. Someone stuck a finisher’s medal around my neck; Susanne placed a 50k finishers hat on my head and after a few brief conversations, Aaron drove us home.

rocks more unstable than they appear
Two days later I found myself piled up in bed again, despondent of life itself. I would get up from time to time to take care of a little thing or two but mostly the tissues wore raw my nose, coughing chaffed my esophagus, and various bowls and mugs overflowed my bedside stand. My contemplation complete, I don't really want to go back to this race in either its winter or summer editions at this point. It has kicked my butt both times although not because of the race itself but because of my physical condition. That being said, both times it has been the perfect training course for me for other races which what I signed up for.     

the tornado spins

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Hungry and Restless

What is becoming more and more apparent during this 50 mile race training is the amount of stress my body is enduring. When I was training for my first 50k several years ago, I knew only a little about the changes but everything was new to me and I couldn’t pinpoint things other than to say I had never done this amount of mileage before. Now, a few years later after a couple marathons and 50k’s worth of training and racing in me I see noticeable differences as I amp up my mileage.

hunger—- I am hungry. There’s no denying that as the number of miles stack up, so does my appetite. Since I’ve already written about this I won’t go much more into it. Please send food.
bacon, kale, runny eggs, amen
rest—- My long runs currently fall on weekends instead of weekdays as in the past. It mostly means that I adjust my run time to extra early to be gone a little less during normal family operating hours. I’d love to report that to make up the early morning difference I go to bed at say 8:00 pm and then sneak in a nap here and there but that has not been the case. I don’t think I caught how little rest I was getting until I finally slept lights out for ten hours straight two nights in a row. The go, go, go was causing me less rest, rest, rest instead of more. This was a pretty subtle change until I was undeniably restless despite a huge weekend of running.  

At least someone's getting a nap
Real sunrise captured after 10 miles
calm—- This one has been perhaps the craziest of them. The directions are pretty straight forward: get up, run, eat, sleep (super simplified- please fill in every other life responsibility). 
While it seems I do this every day, I do not. I get days off.  As of late, however, days off aren't any fun. I start the day solid, thinking of the myriad of things to get done and working my way through them. Somewhere around 1-2:00, my brain starts eating itself. At least that’s what it feel like. Then I get twitchy. I start a task only to end up wandering around not completing much. I  feel a gnawing hungry pain and head to the kitchen to find something. “Good,” I think. “I will calm down.” Nope. My brain feels fuzzy. It's like this every rest day. 

I've done a bit of yoga, lead by my friend Kristy. Anne and I are fiercely trying not to compete- which is the opposite of yoga. We need a lot of help being calm. 
cute yoga mat and tasty smoothie- what's not to be calm about?
I finally figured out what is going on with me. My body is addicted to the high mileage. *low whistle* My body is doing all that it can to stay caught up even on rest days.

All to say, its nice to know I’m not going crazy.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Confessions and Victories

Confession- Stacked away in my basement are ten years worth of Martha Stewart magazines, the latest dating almost ten years ago. I loved getting the magazines and reading them and baking from them and gardening and crafting and homemaking from them. Martha Stewart was Pinterest and everything else before anyone else. And I saved them- moving them 4 times. 

Victory- I parted with 3 years worth of running magazines. 

Confession- I fear cleaning up my Pinterest boards and deleting things I’ll never do. 

Confession- I’ve had a lengthy conversation with others about what to do with leftover party supplies. I’ve invented parties for others or myself to have to use up said supplies. 

Victory- I got rid of some stuff. It was sitting in my garage- a large box and a bag of clothes waiting for me to take it somewhere. It didn’t even matter where, it only needed to go. I opened a few cupboards, raided a bookshelf and threw 10 more things in the box. I took it somewhere.

Confession- I found three food containers with mold growing on the contents in my fridge today.

Victory- I tossed those items out.

Confession- A large bunch of kale is haunting me from the crisper drawer. 

Friends Help Friends Eat

One Friday evening Julia and I were texting back and forth about trail conditions, run start times and so on for a shared run on Saturday morning. I confessed to her that I discovered I don’t like cooking on Friday nights. Fridays are my off day from running right now and I usually fill the day with errands and so on but by the time Friday evening comes around, I’m tired and just done with the week. The problem isn’t that I can’t scrape something together and call it good. The problem is that the weekends are my big long run days and I need to eat well before I go out. As my 50 mile training increases, my weekend runs get longer and longer. This weekend for instance was a three hour run on Saturday and then twenty miles on Sunday. My total mileage for the weekend was 35 miles! That is collectively longer than I’ve ever strung together for a weekend. I'm hungry all the time.

I ate some grilled chicken and applesauce for my Friday night supper, aka not enough, then got up super early, 4:30 am, ate a banana and headed out the door. Julia met me an hour later and as we clicked off miles together she told me she always ate the same thing the night before her 50 mile long run training. This isn't rocket science but as I nibbled on fig newtons and sipped on Tailwind, this blew my mind. Eat the same thing before every long run! Do you know Kaci Lickteig eats the same thing the night before every race? She eats a Subway sandwich. Both Julia and Kaci are brilliant!

What 4:30 am looks like

What a best running friend who helps you eat looks like
I sometimes get in this funky cycle of knowing I’m hungry and knowing I should eat but then I put it off and the more I put it off the more picky I get and the less food sounds appealing and before I know it I’m crying and having a meltdown because I’m hungry. I putz around in the kitchen, not deciding on what to eat then suddenly realizing I need food RIGHT NOW! This qualifies as an emergency and I holler to the family that we are going to pick up Hickory Park so I can get a burger STAT!! Sometimes I don't do things very calmly but in this case the family has learned to rattle off their order as quick as possible lest they have to pick me up off the floor and spoon feed me. 
I think there was a steak to go with but I couldn't wait
A similar situation was developing Saturday night but I happened to be at home alone for the evening. I texted my friend Jenn and told her my predicament. She suggested I just go ahead and order something. Yes, yes, I thought, I can do this! Forty-five minutes later, I stood at my kitchen counter inhaling slices of thai chicken pizza. It wasn’t pretty but nobody was there to see. That is, until Jenn came over later and she witnessed me downing a slice of cheesecake in about four bites.

Sunday was the second leg of my back to back long run weekend. I had my pack full of water, Tailwind, GU energy gels and fig newtons and I had Kristy along with me for a handful of miles. I told her Julia's great idea of eating the same thing before her long runs and how I needed to adopt her habit. Kristy mentioned she meal plans on Sundays and that seems to help her. I already meal plan but realized I could start my planning with the weekend in mind and then work back to the beginning of the week. Then I mentioned how I was stubbornly wandering around Target, hungry and yet refusing to buy anything because of budgets and already having almonds at home and other irrational thought processes (this is the same night I had the chicken and applesauce), when I should have just bought something and got it over with. Kristy- smart Kristy, resourceful Kristy, said she usually keeps some almonds or other snacks in her purse. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather at this revelation (also, I was over 20 miles for the weekend already and we were heading into the wind). I have snacks! I have a stash of Picky Bars and Bearded Brother bars that I bought with this training cycle in mind! I could keep them in my purse!!
Send more, please
Moral to this story: I need my friends to help me eat.  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

McNaughton This Year, Potawatomi Last Year

I didn't fall off the earth after last year's marathon. I've been running and volunteering and training and setting new goals. I knew pretty quickly after the marathon that I was ready to bump up my distance. There are plenty of challenging marathon and 50k races out there to try but now was the time to go for 50 miles. 

We'll leave the "You're crazy" talk out of this for now. 

I spent some time debating about which race to debut at. It was between Zumbro and McNaughton. McNaughton is a bit easier- the elevation change is slightly less and the course is less technical. McNaughton starts in the morning whereas Zumbro starts at midnight- something I'm not comfortable with yet. I know some people at Zumbro (along with that RD crush) but I know more people at McNaughton. Both are on the same day so I had to choose. I chose McNaughton.

McNaughton is this year's race name. Last year it was named Potawatomi. (There's a story behind all that, of course.) Last year, Julia and I crewed for our friend, Katie and I partially wrote a blog post about the experience but never finished it. I went back to it, polished it up a bit and here it is for you.

*** Potawatomi Trail Race, 2016
I seem to be getting a bit deeper in this trail and ultra scene. Last December I hung out at the Hitchcock Experience and saw the stuff podcasts and stories are made of. (One word- Whoa!) A few months later, a friend, Katie, asked me if I would crew and pace for her first hundred mile attempt. The April date was clear and I recruited Julia to come along. I knew I wasn't going to race during the Spring because of all the graduation stuff but I put in solid training hours because pacing someone is no slouch a job. You've got to have your act together because it isn't about you, its about your runner and getting them across the finish line.

The week before the race, Julia and I assessed our camping situation. We each had some stuff and thanks to my friend, Dave, I had some more stuff. What I didn't have was any experience setting up the tent. So late one evening, we shoved our furniture to the edges of the room and Bill walked me through setting up and tearing down our tent as I took notes via Evernote. 

The arm chair didn't make the trip.

On Friday afternoon Julia and I and all our stuff plus Jason, Katie's boyfriend and Forrest, Jason's dalmatian, and all their stuff loaded into my suburban and we headed to McNaughton Park just south of Pekin, Illinois. We would meet Katie and our other friends already there. 
Forrest isn't the best at selfies.

McNaughton Park is a really nice area and the camping area around the start/finish line is nice and reasonably flat. We unloaded our stuff trip by trip back and forth to the suburban as we couldn't back up to our camping spot. Then we began the process of setting up the tent. I was really grateful for the instructions earlier in the week and soon Julia and I were pounding in the tent pegs. Jason and Katie were working on their tent right next to us and I realized we could beat them. So, of course, I pounded those tent pegs in as fast as Julia could get them placed. 

Yes, we beat them!! 
And let's note our attire- winter coats and gear. It was mighty cold the weekend we were there. No snow but the night before when the 200 and 150 milers were out there, there was wind and rain and hail and it was miserable.

Katie and her crew plus Charlie, from Gary's crew, headed into town for some delicious supper. We headed back to the race after supper and Julia and I made the decision to sleep in the back of the suburban where were could have heat and stay out of the bitter wind. It was a very good decision on our part.

Early Saturday morning, Julia, Jason, Forrest and I stood at the start line with Katie. Our hopes as bright as her headlamp. 

Go, Katie, Go!
After the first 10 mile loop, we discovered Katie was struggling just a bit. She came to race with a good size cold, a lot of work hours and not much rest. It's not the ideal conditions to attempt your first 100 miler under but we've heard stories of far worse and yet runners finish the distance. 

Here's the deal with many Midwest ultra trail races (and the same could be said for the boys' dirt bike races), race directors and clubs seem to find an area that is full of hills, short, steep climbs and technical lines. They may not be mountains and pretty vistas but they are work. 
If the hill doesn't have a rope, is it really a hill?

They throw in water crossings and put out signs that inform you that you can cross them without getting your feet wet. Them someone comes by with a Sharpie and comments on the sign that you will get your feet wet. You spend 5 minutes navigating across. Whatever. Do this for ten miles. And repeat.

Back at camp or the start/finish line, the crew waits and eats and takes a nap and hangs out and does math figuring out how long until their runner returns.  

Have start/finish line, will host a race

Here's a runner now! Gary has been out here since Thursday going for 200 miles. Yes, 200 miles consecutively. Yes, he sleeps. Yes, we eat his sweet potato tots when he's not around. Charlie and Annie are doctoring his feet to keep them dry and as blister free as possible. They are some of the best crew people I know. 

They also exchange banter and jaw to keep Gary's spirits up. Just what he likes. I think he's eating one of my monster cookies. It's my small contribution. 

Katie goes round and round, loop after loop. Having a cold sucks. Julia and Jason assess her feet and spirit. Forrest rests as he's going to do the 30 mile fun run later with Jason. 

At the end of 5 loops, Katie calls it. She was tough for enduring so much. The weather was sunshine and blue skies but the temps were winter and it compounds all your aches and pains and mental hurdles. Julia and I tucked her into my suburban, found some hot pizza and cranked up the heat. She lives to fight another day, another race.
Katie had to share the seat with Forrest when he wasn't running.

The next morning we stumble out of the car, wander around bleary eyed and then scramble to take down our tent before rain hits. Jason and Forrest finished their fun run in the middle of the night. Others crossed the finish line, some packed it in, others kept going. We heard stories as we huddled around the camping cookstove, heating up breakfast. 
Finally, Gary emerged from the trail, 200 miles later. 
RD Eric and Gary

This is what I'm signed up for this April 8. Not 200 miles nor Katie's 100 miles but 50 miles. 
Commence the crazy talk. 


I spent a good portion of Christmas Day in the kitchen preparing our dinner that in years’ past I would have prepped way more than I actually did. The rosemary would have been chopped, the garlic pre-minced, the vinaigrette whisked together, the oven temps and baking times written on Post-It Notes instead of 4 cookbooks piled over each other, serving dishes pulled from cabinets and labeled for what and more. I would have done it all ahead of time and then shooed everyone out of the kitchen while I assembled the meal. Its really not a bad way to make a big meal come together quickly other than the shooing. That is meant for dogs who lay underfoot and hungry people who only want to eat and not help. 
This time around, though, Audrey joined me in the meal-making. I taught her to proof yeast and the feel of a good bread dough as it nears the end of kneading. We marveled at how utterly easy this method is for seeding a pomegranate. And while we worked, besides trying to appreciate each other’s taste in music, we talked. It has been a year of transition and new roads for each of us. My daughter wants my listening ear more and not so much my mothering tongue. (Pages. I feel I could write pages about just how hard this is for me.) We cleared dessert dishes and she questioned me for an answer to follow up on something. I sort of told her the answer. She plied me for more. I wanted to resist.
But I ventured out and shared. 

Share. It was a word that had started hanging around in my brain earlier that week and my conversation with Audrey solidified that it needed to be my word of 2017. 
I’ve thought about it a little bit. Looked up its meaning. Let it start scratching at the surface of my heart. 
I've discovered that sharing goes hand in hand with being vulnerable. So many say they want this from a friend but I for one will tell you that I am not actually that willing to let people see the deep crevice that sharing exposes.
I can already see the rub. I am willing to hear my friends’ wounds and joys but I am not willing to reciprocate by sharing mine. There is risk involved with sharing. There are boundaries in sharing. There is sacrifice in sharing. And a deepness. 
I'm discovering all these this year as I open myself to share.